By Lawrence Summers
Neither US financial institutions nor the economy are likely to suffer from a lack of central bank liquidity provision. New lending facilities are coming along almost weekly, the safety net has been expanded to include non-bank primary dealers, the Fed has demonstrated a willingness to take on directly the most problematic parts of Bear Stearns’ balance sheet, and the Fed funds rate has been reduced by 200 basis points within 7 weeks.
At the same time, processes are in motion that may lead to new demands for more than $1,000bn in mortgages, directly or indirectly. Recent regulatory actions will enable Federal Home Loan Banks along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the government-sponsored enterprises) to purchase more than an additional $300bn in mortgage-backed securities.
There is substantial scope for further regulatory action as only a third of the punitive capital charge placed on Fannie and Freddie years ago has been lifted. Moreover, legislation to reduce foreclosures being pushed by Senator Christopher Dodd and Representative Barney Frank could result in the federal government purchasing or providing guarantees that enable the purchase of several hundred billion dollars worth of mortgages. Read more